Solskjaer suggests Man Utd's poor home form partly down to red seats and banners

By Sports Desk April 14, 2021

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has offered a novel explanation for Manchester United's underwhelming home form this season – the players' jerseys are blending into the red canvas of banners and empty seats at Old Trafford.

United's form both at home and on the road have made for curious reading for much of the season – after all, their 6-1 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford in October was the Red Devils' joint-heaviest Premier League loss and saw them beaten in their opening two home games of a league campaign for the first time since 1986-87.

Yet, United have not lost a Premier League away game since January 19, 2020, winning 15 of those 23 matches on the road since.

Delving into the numbers a little more, United's 54.2 per cent win rate at home across all competitions this term is their second-worst record since the Premier League's inception in 1992 – only in 2018-19 (46.2 per cent) have they won a smaller percentage of their games at Old Trafford.

Conversely, their 65.4 per cent win rate on the road (17 victories in 26 matches) is better than they have ever managed in the same timeframe.

While many have put the drastic changes down to a lack of fans – so, less intimidating atmospheres away and reduced motivation at home – in stadiums, Solskjaer offered an alternative conclusion as he addressed the media ahead of Thursday's Europa League quarter-final second leg with Granada.

"You'll see a change now, the banners around the pitch, they're not red anymore," Solskjaer said when queried about why United failed to beat Real Sociedad and Milan at Old Trafford in the two previous rounds of the competition.

"We've looked into this and there shouldn't be any reason really, but some of the players have mentioned, that split-second decision you have to make – look over your shoulder if your team-mate is there or not – and the red shirt is on the red background with the red seats.

"So, we've tried to change that, along with the anti-racism campaign [banner], so of course it was important that wasn't red anymore.

"Then again, there shouldn't be any reason, but if you've got a 4-0 advantage [in the Real Sociedad tie] you don't really have to win that game [second leg at home], 0-0 was a good result.

"Then the first game against Milan, that's still a draw, we conceded in the last minute. I still think we've played some good football at home.

"We started off badly with three defeats to Palace, Tottenham and Arsenal early on, so we've improved."

United host Granada having won 2-0 in Spain a week earlier, and it is just as well they are in such a commanding position given the depleted nature of Solskjaer's squad.

Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay are all suspended, while Eric Bailly remains absent having contracted coronavirus and Marcus Rashford is reportedly a doubt after missing training on Wednesday.

An experimental, and potentially inexperienced, starting XI could be named, with Solskjaer confirming Axel Tuanzebe is set for a rare game at centre-back.

"I don't think it affected him," Solskjaer said when asked if Tuanzebe's confidence had been damaged after being targeted with online abuse.

"Axel has always been a very positive and hard-working boy. Victor and Harry have formed a very good partnership, so his chances have been limited. He is ready for this opportunity."

Regarding any hints of complacency, Solskjaer added: "We have got a great foundation, but we have to win. They will give everything they have got.

"Momentum is big in football. We have to make sure we go through, I always pick a team I think will win a game.

"We will go into the game wanting to win this. We want to improve our performances.

"It is a quarter-final in Europe, they need to score goals. We have seen them against Barcelona, Real Madrid how dangerous they can be. We have to play a good game and not give them those opportunities."

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